Swedish gallery defends art made of Holocaust victims’ ashes

(JTA) — A Swedish art gallery owner defended his gallery’s decision to show a painting made of Holocaust victims’ ashes as “having no moral flaws.”

Martin Bryder, who owns a gallery in Lund, told Sverige Radio that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting” the painting created by artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff using the ashes of victims from the Majdanek extermination camp.

The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Martin Bryder Gallery on Dec. 15.

.According to a local newspaper, Sydsvenskan, von Hausswolff had collected the ashes more than 20 years ago.

Salomon Schulman, a teacher of Yiddish and member of Lund’s Jewish community, wrote in Sydsvenskan that he found the display “disgusting” and called it “a desecration of Jewish bodies.”

“Nowhere was the Third Reich more popular than among the educated academics," Schulman wrote. "Today, the Holocaust and racism are still part of their salon talks.”

In a text published by the gallery, von Hausswolff is quoted as saying, “The ash has followed me, always been there …  as if the ash contains energies or memories or souls of people … people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people.”

The directorate of the museum at Majdanek is outraged by the art.

"We are deeply shocked and outraged by the information that the painting allegedly was made with the ashes of Majdanek victims," said a statement published on Wednesday by the museum staff. "This action is an artistic provocation deserving only to be condemned. In addition, it is certain that the Swedish painter did not enter into possession of the ashes legally." 

Andrzej Fijolek of the Lublin police told JTA that the police have not opened an investigation into how the artist came into possession of the ashes, since no complaint was filed.

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